Dec. 19, 2006 – In a baffling move by 2K Games, a division of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO), Michael Steven Gregory, lead story writer of its debut boxing title, has been dropped from the project because of his affiliation with the Writers Guild of America. The WGA represents professional writers of film and television and has been making inroads in the gaming industry through its New Media Caucus to standardize fair hiring and compensation conventions as an incentive to work with accomplished screenwriters.
Citing nearly six months of extensive development on the game, during which time his WGA status was well known by concerned 2K Games personnel, even promoted in internal documents and noted as an incentive for his being hired, Gregory calls the decision retaliatory. “The third largest gaming company in the world resents paying professional writers a professional wage,” said Gregory. “When Fox television’s ‘Family Guy’ writers refused to accept inadequate pay for the ‘Family Guy’ game they’re doing — a franchise license with the potential to net millions of dollars for the company — 2K reacted the way petulant, corporate larcenists being called out often do: they balked, blustered and finally bowed, reluctantly paying the appropriate amount for what they already knew they’d profit mightily from. Then they huddled in the boardroom and declared, ‘No more WGA writers!’ to punish the rest of us.”
An unnamed source confirms that the edict derailed at least two other accomplished game writers’ immediate prospects for working with 2K, despite successfully writing previous games for the company, because of their WGA affiliation.
The new boxing game, tentatively titled “Ring King” in part because boxing promoter Don King is rumored to being paid over $1 million to appear in it, went through at least two completely different iterations of narrative and game design development with Gregory, from scratch, under the supervision and direction of 2K executive producer Matthew Seymour, and Greg Gobbi, VP business affairs. Considering the protracted collaborative association, Gregory admits he was surprised by both the company’s about-face on the game, and its unwillingness to honor its commitment to compensate him for services rendered.
“I hope Don King gets his money,” said Gregory. “Because 2K Games clearly doesn’t think much of legally binding contracts or commitments. They’ve been in breach of my own contract for months, haven’t paid me a nickel since I agreed to come aboard in January, and now refuse to pay what it is they owe altogether — and I’m owed a lot less than Don King.”
“Ring King,” or whatever title it is ultimately released under, is 2K Games’ effort to go toe-to-toe with Electronic Arts heavy-hitter boxing behemoth, “Fight Night,” and is being developed for the Xbox 360 by Venom Studios in the UK, makers of the popular “Rocky” movie franchise videogames. What direction the game now takes narratively and game play wise, Gregory can only speculate. “I guess a family comedy, first-person shooter would be one way for them to go with a boxing game. That’s one I didn’t do!”
Having recently suffered hits on Wall Street as a result of lackluster releases, high overhead and last year’s “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” debacle, a game published by Take-Two arm Rockstar Games, for some the decision to further damage the company’s credibility in the entertainment industry, with investors, and with gamers, might call into question the sensibilities and business savvy of those charged with keeping the company solvent.
“Videogames are the cinema of the 21st Century,” asserts Gregory. “In order for the medium to rise to the level of its potential, the reprehensible, predatory business practices exemplified by Take-Two Interactive, with regards to the vital role professional writers will play in accomplishing that objective, must be stopped now. That is why it’s essential the WGA New Media Caucus remain resolute in its efforts to organize game writers. That is why it’s essential the WGA New Media Caucus secure commitments by respectable game publishers to become signatory agencies and pay writers in a timely fashion, commensurate with their contributions to each and every game they develop.”
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